How to Design Holiday Centerpieces That Radiate Joy

Repeat colors and design elements for buffet centerpieces.

Holiday centerpiece ideas can be fun to create or buy. Don't be afraid to experiment and try something different this year.

Getting started

There are several things to consider before setting out to find or make the perfect holiday centerpiece.

Select Your Greenery

  • Live greenery - Buying new greenery every year can often be considered a luxury. The lifecycle will be shorter and you'll be limited in what you can buy and use for greenery.
  • Artificial greenery - Often difficult to tell even upon close inspection and has a longer lifecycle. You can use it year after year and even recycle into a new design.

Holiday centerpiece ideas typically revolve around some kind of greenery such as:

  • Pine
  • Holly
  • Magnolia
  • Cedar
  • Boxwood

Don't be afraid to try a form of greenery that isn't traditional. You may decide you like it better.

Theme and Design

It's always easiest if you start out knowing the theme of your design.

  • Traditional
  • Modern
  • Unique, one-of-a-kind

Plant motifs:

  • Red berries
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Thistle
  • Mistletoe
  • Pine cones
  • Grape vines
  • Dried flowers
  • Poinsettias

Object motifs:

  • Statues - Angels, santas, cherubs, carolers, elves, whimsical characters
  • Ornaments - Balls and other ornaments made from fabric, mirrors, glitter
  • Icons - Crystal icicles, fans, cars, picture frames
  • Ribbons and bows - Keep these within the color scheme you selected. You can use a wide range of textures to add more contrast and interest.
  • Candles - All sizes, shapes and colors


Traditional holiday colors use a combination of two accent colors, but you can also use a third color for a dramatic contrast color.Some two-color combinations you may wish to use:

Two-Color Combinations
Red Blue Gold Pink Purple
Red & Green Blue & Green Gold & Red Pink & Purple Purple & White
Red & Gold Blue & Yellow Gold & Blue Pink & Peach Purple & Gold
Red & Purple Blue & Peach Gold & Peach Pink & Blue Purple & Silver
Red & Silver Blue & Gold Gold & White Pink & White Purple & Peach
Red & White Blue & Silver Gold & Silver Pink & Silver Purple & Blue

Complementary Colors:

  • Complementary colors are found opposite each other on the color wheel and this is why they work well together. They can create a sharp contrast to give a pop effect in the overall design.
    • Red and green
    • Yellow and purple
    • Blue and green
    • Green and orange

You can also use various hues of a color: A hue is the gradation of a primary color. For example, pink can have many graduations of color and these can be used together as though they are different colors.

Shape and Size

Now that you have decided on the kind of greenery and color scheme, you're ready to tackle the overall shape and size. This will be determined by the size of your table.

For dining table centerpiece:

  • Measure the length of the table and subtract the length of two dinner plates. This will give you the maximum length for your centerpiece, leaving only enough space for the place settings.
    • If you need space for serving bowls, then measure the table length and divide by three.
  • Measure the width of your table.
    • Subtract the measurement for two dinner plates if seating on both sides of the table and then subtract four inches. This will allow for one inch above and below the plate on each side of the table.
    • The number left will be the maximum width for your centerpiece. It can be less if you need more table space for the meal.

Centerpiece For Buffet Serving Table

You have greater leeway with this kind of centerpiece than you do one at a dining table. The height can be larger, but keep in mind its relationship to other decorations and serving pieces.

Carrying the Theme to Buffet Centerpieces

You can have a different centerpiece for every serving table or buffet, but keep in mind you want to create uniformity.

To accomplish this, you want to repeat certain elements:

  • Theme
  • Greenery
  • Color scheme

The shape, size and actual form can be very different and still be effective. For example, if you use gold cherubs on the table centerpiece, but don't want the buffet centerpiece to be an exact replica, you can use a few of the same cherubs within the buffet centerpiece. You can then add different gold angels and cherubs.

Another choice for a gold and green theme would be to use gold fruit forms like pears, apples and grapes to repeat the color scheme. If your color scheme is orange and purple, you can find fruit forms to match.

Fountains are often excellent choices for the champagne centerpiece or a chocolate fondue fountain. Just be sure to include the three design elements to keep these centerpieces matched to your table centerpiece.

Holiday Centerpiece Ideas Without Using Greenery

Use ornaments for centerpieces.

You can create a centerpiece without traditional greenery.

  • Use a crystal bowl and fill with multi-colored Christmas balls. Place candles on either side.
  • Drape curls of ribbon and ornate Christmas balls down the length of the tablecloth.
    • Use varied heights of crystal candleholders.
    • Match candles to one of the main colors
    • Add crystal Christmas trees and various holiday glitter and confetti shapes.
    • Wrap small boxes and scatter along the table.

There are all kinds of non-traditional centerpieces you can create. Just use your imagination.

Centerpiece Design Is Fun

Do some research and spend time looking around for holiday centerpiece ideas. By taking that extra step, you'll find your holiday celebrations are filled with beauty and fun.

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How to Design Holiday Centerpieces That Radiate Joy